I pulled the trigger, friends, and I think I found a nice match between form, function, and tradition. I bought the Jaeger LeCoultre Master Compressor Extreme World Chronograph – a review is forthcoming – and I think I found the right balance here. I was constantly going back to watches like Glashütte Original and even, dare I say it, Breguet but they just didn’t seem like watches I’d wear on a regular basis, unlike this monster. Even the Panerai I was eying would end up being relegated to the winder.

As I’ve said many times, watch acquisition is a slippery slope. What started out as a silly hobby – I still remember wondering if I should pick up a $100 Sandoz diver from the 1970s on eBay and decided, yeah, why the heck not, starting this strange ball rolling – has become another part of my journalistic research. I’m going to post a little on the trip I’m on right now but because of this watch obsession I was in Stockholm talking about a Swedish noble who commissioned one of the most amazing watches ever, in Switzerland talking to the CEO of the biggest watch company in the world, and will soon travel to Paris to retrace the footsteps of Breguet. I’m visiting these places with a sense of mission and it’s exciting.

So I got this big honking watch. Why? Not because it’s expensive – it wasn’t SO bad where I got it. I got it because it represents an investment into the “emotional objects” category that I’m prepared to make. In the grand scheme of things, this thing is just a hunk of surgical steel with some gears. The crappy clock on the TV in this weird Swiss hotel room I’m in right now is more accurate, on the aggregate, than this watch and it represents technology that reached its apex in the 18th century.

But it is something more. Watches are the one link we have to a pre-industrial past that stands firmly on the border to the future. The watch brought about the age of empire, industrialization, and the American project. The watch told soldiers when it was time to go home in WWII France – and they rarely heeded them. A watch kept constant vigil on my father’s wrist in Zurich in 1968 and that same watch keeps constant vigil by my bedside and followed me as I interviewed with publishing houses during proposal process for my book. It was a totem and a security blanket. It defines a boy’s first inkling of responsibility and it tells a girl when it is time to grow up. It kept the trains running on time, for better or worse.

So I picked a watch with some tradition. Maybe I’ll get an old man watch when I’m an old man. Until then I’ll wear this beast for a while.

Last Update: November 14, 2008

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